A writer once called his Sunday School teacher the worst name he could think of—and it haunts him still
by Hadley Hury
April 29, 2016 In 1957, when I was eight years old, I called my Sunday School teacher, Miss Jeffie Lou Beecroft, a bad word. I didn’t call her the bad word to her face, but it was a very bad word, apparently the worst word I had in me at the time, and that’s what has mattered ever since.
Published Friday, 29 April 2016
Ray Midge didn’t lie down and give up when his wife ran off with her ex-husband, and there’s a lesson in his perseverance
by Gerald Duff
April 22, 2016 I crammed down all the medication allowed me, wrapped a bag of ice around the cast and what showed of my forearm, and lowered myself onto the bed beside my wife. She did her best to talk me down. “Don’t think so much,” she said. “Try to read something.” To humor her, I reached with my good hand and picked up the first book I touched on the bedside table. It was Charles Portis’s The Dog of the South.
Published Friday, 22 April 2016
During the spring migration of 1965, a teenager’s unhappy parents finally find common ground
April 4, 2016 For most of my life, I had paid almost no attention to my parents’ private lives. They were just there, usually a deterrent to whatever it was I wanted to do. But our three lives intersected the spring I was sixteen, the spring when they started watching birds and I, learner’s permit in hand, started to drive.
Published Monday, 4 April 2016
On sabbatical in Baltimore, a Nashville poet considers our shared humanity
January 29, 2016 We look over the side of the pier and wonder where footholds might help a person up, but we can’t find any. We think of last night’s drinkers, one of whom might have stumbled in. We think of despair—so many homeless, so many loves gone bad—and we think of families, but we see no one who looks any more personally involved than simply considering the hazards of his own living.
Published Friday, 29 January 2016
There once was a Pulitzer Prize-winner who wrote poems about the working-class people most writers never notice
by Kate Daniels
January 8, 2016 When Philip Levine gave a poetry reading at Vanderbilt, the room was packed. But in his introduction to the event, Vereen Bell bypassed entirely the impressive literary credentials of the Pulitzer Prize-winner. He told, instead, the story of the Burger Bitch, how he had started talking with her one day as she went about her trash-dumping duties.
Published Friday, 8 January 2016
On the launch date of his debut novel, a Chapter 16 writer considers the failures of his past
January 4, 2016 With the foolish, feverish urgency of a gambler betting all he has left on a longshot to win, I tried again, finishing another novel in less than a fifth of the time it had taken me to write the first one. There was a quick flurry of interest from editors but still no publishing deal. My agent—who had already sunk hundreds of hours into my career for nary a nickel, and hence will be my hero for life—remained hopeful. “I have a good feeling about this one,” she said. “Have faith.”
Published Monday, 4 January 2016
Christmas memories can be complicated
December 18, 2015 The Brownings excelled at Christmas excess, and no one enjoyed it more than I did. Becoming an adult took most of the shine off the holiday for me. There is not much wonder in shopping and cooking and managing contentious relatives. But there was a time when Christmas wonder returned….
Published Friday, 18 December 2015
With Tammy Derr, founder of Fairytales Bookstore, everyone was inside the circle
December 17, 2015 I have no idea if Tammy heard any of the things I said to her. Perhaps she can tell me someday when I see her on the other side. But this I know for sure: that waiting room was filled with people, and every single one of them belonged there. Everyone was in because Tammy had drawn them in. That is Tammy’s legacy. The legacy of belonging, the legacy of community.
Published Thursday, 17 December 2015
It was a marriage made under the table
December 16, 2015 Mr. Gooch didn’t have much to say about his inclinations toward matrimony, except to point out the obvious fact that he couldn’t marry both girls. When the solution to the impasse finally appeared, no one could say exactly where it had come from or who had suggested it. It was as though it had been there all along but had only revealed itself when the neighbors’ thinking had matured enough to recognize it.
Published Wednesday, 16 December 2015
What you know about your neighbors isn’t always enough to illuminate what you don’t
December 15, 2015 They were in this neighborhood before we were, and they’ll be here when we leave. Theirs is a sad and angry life. The woman’s voice itself is a caricature: coarse, booze and smoke-ravaged. She tends to shout and taunt and curse sarcastically—all her fury and misery spat out in expletives.
Published Tuesday, 15 December 2015
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